The State Department filed its motion to dismiss a case challenging the U.S. Foreign Service's mandatory retirement policy, arguing the age cutoff was a valid piece of Congressional decision making.
Elizabeth Colton, a 64-year-old Foreign Services officer, sued the State Department in September alleging she had been denied an overseas assignment because of her age. Her suit, filed at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, claimed the Foreign Service's requirement that officers retire at 65 violated the Constitution's equal protection clause. Colton also alleged the government violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act by denying her career opportunities before she turned 65.
The government shot back yesterday, arguing that Colton was trying to upend long-settled law. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has already found that the retirement policy at issue, which is contained in the Foreign Services Act, was was exempt from the ADEA, the government said. It added that the Supreme Court has also ruled that the age cutoff does not violate equal protection.
"Congress viewed the mandatory retirement provision as critical to maintaining the highest level of performance by 'the corps of public servants who hold positions critical to our foreign relations,'" the government's filing states.
Because the retirement policy is valid, Colton's claims of discrimination are meritless, the government argued.
"It should come as no surprise that the range of assignments available to plaintiff (or any other foreign service officer) may diminish as she approaches the mandatory retirement age of 65 – the most obvious example being an increasingly limited range of assignment opportunities in positions that would require her to serve past her 65th birthday," the government stated.
See our prior coverage of the case, Colton v. Clinton, here.